Business

These Charlotte restaurants and venues are dumping plastic straws

Blumenthal Performing Arts in Charlotte has become the latest in a growing list of groups saying it plans to stop using plastic straws at its venues, a movement aimed at helping the environment.

Bans on plastic straws have become more popular in recent months as national companies have sworn off them.

In July, Starbucks announced it was switching to recyclable lids instead of plastic straws on cold drinks.

The move faced initial backlash from advocates for people with disabilities because some people with disabilities need straws to help them drink. For example, straws are necessary for people who can not lift cups.

Starbucks later said straws would be available upon request to those who need or ask for them.

Some Charlotte restaurants and venues are also making or considering the switch.

“We wanted to make a push for people to just get out of the habit of using them” said Brandon Viebrock, co-owner of several Charlotte restaurants. Plastic straws have been phased out at both Leroy Fox restaurants, Mortimer’s Cafe & Pub and Cowbell Burger and Whiskey Bar, Viebrock said, although paper straws are available upon request.

Paper straws are about four times more expensive, but the cost should balance out as the number of straws used decreases, he said. The restaurants still use plastic cocktail straws, but Viebrock said he is considering cutting paper straws in half to replace them.

There is no plan to ban the use of straws at Bank of America Stadium, said Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond. The food and beverage policy is reviewed every year, he said.

A BB&T ballpark spokesman said it is evaluating an alternative to paper straws for next baseball season because this season is almost complete.

Blumenthal said it uses about 4,500 straws during each Broadway run, which is typically eight performances in a week.

The switch to paper straws will have a small cost. Paper straws are about 3 cents more than plastic, or $135 more for 4,500 straws, according to Blumenthal. It said its distributor expects as more and more places start to use the paper straws, the cost will drop to the same or less than plastic ones.

The Plastics Industry Association supports leaving it to businesses whether they want to only offer straws upon request, according to an industry publication.

An N.C. nonprofit aimed at reducing plastic use has an Ocean Friendly Establishment program that encourages restaurants and businesses to only give out straws upon request.

“Like you do for the ketchup,” said Bonnie Monteleone, a co-founder and executive director of Plastic Ocean Project. Dozens of N.C. restaurants and other establishments participate in the program mostly in coastal areas including, Carolina Beach, Wilmington and Nags Head.

The program focuses on making straws optional, instead of banning them altogether, so it is not divisive, Monteleone said.

Hospitals also use thousands of straws and sometimes give patients multiple straws a day, Monteleone said.

Novant Health said that its Charlotte facilities have used about 800,000 plastic straws in the past year. It has begun evaluating using other options to plastic straws and Styrofoam cups, but no decisions have been made yet.

Atrium Health, the other major hospital system, said it does not have any current plans to ban straws. But said it is constantly looking for ways to reduce waste, including lighting choices, green building and construction decisions and conscious use of printers.

Not Just Coffee, which has five locations across Charlotte, made the switch on Earth Day in April.

Co-owner Miracle Clark-Yoder cited a viral 2015 YouTube video that shows a sea turtle with a plastic straw being pulled out of its nostril. “I just couldn’t shake that,” she said.

Reactions to paper straws at Not Just Coffee have been mixed. Some people have balked a little at the durability of the paper straws, she said.

Not Just Coffee posted a photo of the straws on Instagram with a caption saying the straws don’t hold up long-term in liquid as well as plastic, “but that’s kind of the point. The sea turtles appreciate it!”

Commentors relayed their support, including many hearts and turtles emoji.

Cassie Cope: 704-358-5926, @cassielcope
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